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Sony Agrees to Stop Payola

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the restoring-radio-virginity dept.

The Media 450

dsginter writes "Sony BMG Music just reached agreement with New York Attorney General. Sony spokesman John McKay admitted that the practice was 'wrong and improper' but the company engaged in the activity anyway. They were fined $10 million and have agreed to obstain from the practice in the future. Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?"

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450 comments

Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (5, Insightful)

Three Headed Man (765841) | about 9 years ago | (#13163618)

The Recording Industry Association of America will never stop something as profitable as payola without the threat of jail. Period.

Jail won't stop them... (1)

Trinition (114758) | about 9 years ago | (#13163630)

...without the threat of jail



They'll just use junior management as scapegoats and have them go, or just continue their practices from jail.



Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (2, Informative)

evviva (867151) | about 9 years ago | (#13163637)

penalty for 'payola' still include up to 1 year of incarceration according to US laws. there's your threat, then. would have been useful to actually define 'payola' for everyone like me that had to go and look it up on google (surprise! we're not all from english speaking countries).

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (1)

koreaman (835838) | about 9 years ago | (#13163677)

I'm from America, I was born here and have lived here my entire life.

And I didn't know what payola means, either.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (0)

Linus Torvaalds (876626) | about 9 years ago | (#13163694)

I'm from America, I was born here and have lived here my entire life.

Whatever you say, "koreaman" :)

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (1, Offtopic)

koreaman (835838) | about 9 years ago | (#13163707)

My name is a complete falsity.

I don't feel like relating the story of why I have it here.

Anyway, you should know about misleading names :-)

Korea, man? (2, Funny)

wild_berry (448019) | about 9 years ago | (#13163841)

How's the e-mail thing working out for you, old chap?

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (4, Insightful)

Three Headed Man (765841) | about 9 years ago | (#13163697)

They're still not going to prison. The laws will never have any meaningful enforcement as things stand now. 10 Million is less than a slap on the wrist.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (4, Informative)

Emil Brink (69213) | about 9 years ago | (#13163895)

I know I'm being silly, but it was actually explained like this in ... the article:

A 1960 federal law and related state laws bar record companies from offering undisclosed financial incentives in exchange for airplay. The practice was called "payola," a contraction of "pay" and "Victrola," the old wind-up record player.

Not being from an English-speaking country myself either, I thought I'd eye the article hoping they would be internally consistent and define the term. They were, and they did. I bet this could be used to try and teach some kind of lesson, but let's not go there. :)

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (2, Interesting)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 9 years ago | (#13163712)

Exactly - they just payola'd the US justice system with $10m, its all calculated risk and marketing expenses to them. I wouldn't be surprised if their legal department had already budgeted for this.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (2, Insightful)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about 9 years ago | (#13163735)

You are correct, and the fact that 10m USD is a joke to Sony, they could probably afford a 10M a day fine for years on end before they notice a hit to their bottom line.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (4, Insightful)

strider44 (650833) | about 9 years ago | (#13163893)

[source [www.rte.ie] ]

Considering it had a profit of €32 million Q1 this year, but lets be generous considering that was down from other quarters and put it at an even €100 mil for a quarter. That means that they'd make about $500 mill a year.

They would only last 50 days before their entire profit for the year would be used up. 10 mil is a *lot* of money to *anyone*.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (5, Insightful)

laurensv (601085) | about 9 years ago | (#13163745)

Maybe some hope for you, from TFA: Jonathan Adelstein, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, said Spitzer "appears to have found a whole arsenal of smoking guns."
"We need to investigate each particular instance that Spitzer has uncovered to see if it is a violation of federal law. This is a potentially massive scandal," he said.
The FCC has power over the nation's radio stations, which are licensed to use public airwaves.

Maybe if the FCC starts hurting the radios some of them will be less inticed to the practice? Maybe not, becasue look what being a DJ offers:
In one case, an employee of Sony BMG's Epic label was trying to promote the group Audioslave to a station and asked: "WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen." In another case in 2004, the promotion department of Sony BMG label Epic Records paid for an extravagant trip to Miami for a Buffalo DJ and three friends in exchange for adding the Franz Ferdinand song "Take Me Out" to the DJ's station's playlist.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163923)

"WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen."

Well... you could start by wearing pink stayups - and nothing more - go outside and dance macarena. When you come back, I have a phone call you should make to the DOJ.

Re:Of course it's a slap on the wrist! (4, Insightful)

eclectro (227083) | about 9 years ago | (#13163759)

Also, they (and their cohorts) have promised to stop payola numerous times in the past only to find another way to pass the money under the table.

Also, don't forget the other four titans Universal, EMI and Warner are conspicuosly absent from this article.

And I find it interesting that the last sentence says that the 10 million is "earmarked for not-for profits" which must be code-speak for "this is a tax write off"

Companies as legal personae (5, Interesting)

inmate (804874) | about 9 years ago | (#13163778)

I believe US law treats companies as legal personae, granting them similiar rights to people.
Should a person break the law, they may well face a jail term.
For a company, a jail sentence make sense. Who should be incarcerated? The executives?

Perhaps we need to take a different approach - one which with credible and appropriate consequences.
I suggest removing all copyrights on songs/artists that benefited from the payola crime.

The starving artists themselves can claim damages against the company directly.

Re:Companies as legal personae (5, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | about 9 years ago | (#13163822)

I suggest removing all copyrights on songs/artists that benefited from the payola crime

This implies that there is a congress that represents the public interests when it comes to copyright law.

This, as you know (or should know), simply is not the case.

Re:Companies as legal personae (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13163826)

The gov could forbid a company from doing business (jailtime) or even dissolve it (death). Of course, since the companies are what pays the gov's bills they won't enforce any harsh punishments.

Re:Companies as legal personae (5, Insightful)

a_nonamiss (743253) | about 9 years ago | (#13163845)

Unfortunately, in the US, companies are NOT treated with similar rights as people. For exactly the reason you stated above (who do you punish?) corporations are often given MUCH more leeway to vio;ate the law than individuals. The sentence against Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom CEO) two weeks ago was a rare victory for the little guy, but in reality this was a sentence against one man for crimes that were orchestrated and carried out with cooperation and knowlege of hundreds if not thousands of people.

Using this same logic companies every day spew out unfathomable amounts of illegal toxins. If they are caught, they pay a fine, (which they have already budgeted for) ratchet back their emissions, wait for a little while until the EPA gets off their backs, then resume their polluting. A factory farm here in Ohio (Buckeye Egg Farm) [greenlink.org] did this for over ten years amidst hundreds of complaints and clear violations of environmental laws before they were finally ordered to shut down operations. An individual in the US could not knowingly violate the law, all the while reaping huge profits, only to be told to stop after 10 years of activity. Corporations are given too much criminal protection.

FYI... (3, Informative)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#13163621)

It's "abstain".

Re:FYI... (4, Funny)

Xtifr (1323) | about 9 years ago | (#13163708)

What are you talking about? "Obstain" is a perfectly cromulent word! :)

Actually, it may even be a more appropriate word in this case. If "obstain" is to "obstinance" as "abstain" is to "abstinence", well, I'm pretty sure the record industry will dig their heels in and keep paying out that ol' payola. It's been going on non-stop for half a century, and previous busts did little or nothing to halt the process. Sony may have agreed to abstain, but I betcha they'll actually obstain!

Re:FYI... (1)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#13163753)

rotfl...

touché :-)

Haha.. $10M? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163632)

That's probably a single-digit percentage of what they made the first few weeks of payola. Wait a minute, didn't they promise to stop with this a long time ago? You mean they lied and continued to do it anyway? But okay, a little slap on the wrist and another promise. I guess all is well then.

Sheeeeeesh.

Re:Haha.. $10M? (1)

irokie (697424) | about 9 years ago | (#13163871)

Nah, see what happened was in the 60's, record companies paid cash directly to DJs, under the table, to play songs. "i'll give you $100 if you play $song".

What Spitzer said sony were doing now was "if you play $song, we'll give you a free laptop to give away, and we'll fly you and 3 friends to cancun for the weekend". Sometimes it was even less direct, with people going through "independant promoters", or with fake competitions where the prize just went straight to the DJ in question.

I blame the DJs as much as sony for this... maybe more. DJs should have the balls to play what they like because they like it...

Worth it? (5, Insightful)

Linus Torvaalds (876626) | about 9 years ago | (#13163639)

They were fined $10 million and have agreed to obstain from the practice in the future. Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?"

With music industry profits of billions each year, I'm sure they made much more than $10m from doing so. They'll carry on with the payola until it stops being profitable for them to do it.

Don't forget it's not just direct profits that payola causes. Payola is a large factor in preventing independent musicians from getting adequate airplay, so it actually supresses the competition and reinforces the RIAA cartel's position. That alone has to be worth way more than $10m.

Re:Worth it? (4, Insightful)

antic (29198) | about 9 years ago | (#13163686)

Also, the penalty is tiny given that the label was using "a more formalized, more corporatized structure" to bribe DJs and "employees sought to conceal some payments by using fictitious contest winners to document the transactions" -- they were really going out of their way to achieve this. It wasn't just one renegade, it appears to be more of a company policy to break the law. Sony are interested in "defining a new, higher standard in radio promotion" -- why would anyone trust them?

Re:Worth it? (5, Interesting)

PeteDotNu (689884) | about 9 years ago | (#13163720)

If we're looking for methods that would actually work, I think that the DJs who were accepting these bribes should be forced into retirement.

I know that it's an absurd over-reaction, but if no-one is willing to accept the bribe, then there will be no bribe.

Re:Worth it? (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | about 9 years ago | (#13163722)

Perhaps this will open Sony up to lawsuits from independent labels. Thats basically the main goal here I would hope.

Improvement soon unlikely (4, Insightful)

gunpowda (825571) | about 9 years ago | (#13163641)

Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?

A Salon feature [salon.com] from earlier this year offers some more information on the practice, and a tentative answer to the question posed in this summary:

"...radio playlists are unlikely to improve anytime soon. While [promoters] are often seen as dubious, they did have a knack for getting new acts their break on FM radio...station programmers may soon become even less adventurous in choosing which songs get tapped for rotation on FM stations' heavily guarded playlists.

The indie promotion fallout could be especially tough on smaller, independently owned record labels...The short-term effect is not good for independent music."

Re:Improvement soon unlikely (1)

arch-absurd (902328) | about 9 years ago | (#13163771)

While [promoters] are often seen as dubious, they did have a knack for getting new acts their break on FM radio...station programmers may soon become even less adventurous in choosing which songs get tapped for rotation on FM stations' heavily guarded playlists.

The term "station programmer" is appropriate, considering that in many radio markets, the disk jocky or board operator is a computer.

I listen to a local ClearChannel AM station in order to hear Coast to Coast AM and occasional sports broadcasts. On too many occasions, there have been instances of 15+ minutes of dead air, or even better, two simultaneous audio feeds being broadcasted over the airwaves.

This stuff pisses me off, so like a fool I try to contact the station, but my calls go unanswered, as do my emails. There is nobody there. Or nobody who cares to respond to their captives/customers. And being a monopoly, why should they? It's all arithmatic.

Meanwhile, I pick from three local FM community stations for quality programming. For morbid kicks, I let the dial linger on one of the commercial stations for a minute or so and let their vapid glop reverberate in my ears. It is less than nothing, like a snack of cotton candy and ramen noodles.

Fortunately, there's the Internet. I can get any damned kind of music I want over the Internet. So take heart, radio listeners--you don't need a radio to listen to radio when you have a computer. This is why the hedgemons have no future. Let them rot.

Indie promotion is a joke. (5, Insightful)

b0r0din (304712) | about 9 years ago | (#13163802)

I would argue that there really is no such thing as independant music being played on most stations. 'Indie promotion' is just another buzzword that makes it sound like it's creative and underground, which is far from the truth. Indie promotion is another word for payola. That's all it is. If there are a few indie promoters that can get some unknown band on the radio, they are very few and far between.

And as far as station programmers choosing playlists, well I don't know enough about it to make a conclusion, but given the fact that where I live Clear channel owns both 'classic rock' stations and they both play pretty much the same playlist, I doubt the station managers have any control on what Clear Channel wants played. At any specific time I can turn on a Clear Channel station and be guaranteed to hear one of 3 AC/DC songs (who knew they only put out three songs?) or some old Aerosmith song.

The music industry is stagnating right now. MTV has been useless for several years now, choosing to focus on reality television rather than music videos or innovative sound. Mom and pop radio stations have been bought out by the one or two monopolies left in broadcasting.

And anyone that can tell me Lil' Jon is a musician with a straight face deserves a frickin Oscar. It's almost as if two music executives sat in a room together and made a bet that they could make millions off of a bum with no talent just from pure marketing hype alone.

I think if there's anything that can make a big difference, it's a media-centered site like Apple's iTunes that has things like music videos, sampling, playlists, online radio stations. I can listen to more new bands in a week through iTunes than I ever heard introduced as a new band on a radio, in all the years I've been alive.

Let me get this straight (5, Insightful)

richie2000 (159732) | about 9 years ago | (#13163642)

Companies in the recording industry depend heavily on airplay for their artists. It boosts sales by encouraging listeners to buy their music and helps them climb the charts, which are based on airplay.
Spitzer said Sony BMG's efforts to win more airplay took many forms, including outright bribes of cash and electronics to radio stations and paying for contest giveaways for listeners. In other cases, he said, Sony BMG used middlemen known as independent promoters to funnel cash to radio stations.

So if a regular Joe spreads the word about a new song and induces many thousands of random people listen to it for free it's theft, but if a radio DJ does the exact same thing he gets paid? Riiight.

Maybe Sony should just have those "independent promoters" run eDonkey clients instead. It'd be much cheaper.

Re:Let me get this straight (1)

BentSorenDahl (879286) | about 9 years ago | (#13163690)

So if a regular Joe spreads the word about a new song and induces many thousands of random people listen to it for free it's theft, but if a radio DJ does the exact same thing he gets paid? Riiight.


If they let Joe spread the word they lose the power of deciding what the people should listen to and when. When they buy the radio DJ they have control of what people are listening to.

Its all about power.

Re:Let me get this straight (2, Informative)

shark72 (702619) | about 9 years ago | (#13163698)

"So if a regular Joe spreads the word about a new song and induces many thousands of random people listen to it for free it's theft, but if a radio DJ does the exact same thing he gets paid? Riiight."

The goal of record companies is, sadly, to make money. If I've already procured an MP3 of a song from Joe, I don't need to buy it -- I already have it. The record company (and the artist) make nothing. What, I'm going to voluntarily buy a copy of the album I've pirated, or go see the band in concert? Not bloody likely.

However, there have been countless times that I've heard a song on XM and subsequently hunted it down on iTunes. When I did this, both the record company and the artist made money -- in fact, the artist made a little bit when the song was played on the radio.

If publicity and exposure were the Alpha and the Omega and record companies and artists did not need to worry about making sales, then your logic would make perfect sense. There are plenty of unsigned bands who do freely use P2P services to distribute sample tracks. But if the intrinsic value of radio airplay is still boggling you, put yourself in the shoes of these bands and think about whether you'd also like some radio exposure in addition to all the kids P2Ping your stuff. Whether we like it or not, radio airplay is a big deal to up and coming artists.

Re:Let me get this straight (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 9 years ago | (#13163808)

What, I'm going to voluntarily buy a copy of the album I've pirated, or go see the band in concert? Not bloody likely.

Speak for yourself. Just about everyone has internet access nowadays. Surely everyone in their early teens knows how to download an MP3 by now. According to the RIAA lawsuits even cats,grannies, and dead people can do it, it's so easy. Yet I don't see any starving artists out there. I'm still waiting for record labels to declare massive losses because they can't sell a single album. Record profits have even been seen last year in Europe. SOMEBODY IS STILL BUYING THE STUFF. Get it? Not everyone is as morally weak as you are. I certainly pay for music I like.

What makes me laugh, some Mexican artist whined on tv the other day (I forget who, and I really don't care) that he wasn't selling albums because of piracy. BS. He wasn't selling albums because his music is crap. If an album has decent music on it, people will buy it. If an album is crap, people won't buy it. They might still download it (because crap for free is acceptable for some people when being charged for crap isn't), but they won't pay money for it. Moral of the story = stop whining if people aren't paying for crap anymore.

Re:Let me get this straight (1)

goldspider (445116) | about 9 years ago | (#13163884)

"The goal of record companies is, sadly, to make money."

That first statement certainly framed your perspective very well. I suspect that your employer's goals are similar, and that you were hired to help your employer achieve that goal.

So the way I see it, that puts you in an interesting situation. If you believe that musicians aren't entitled to be compensated for their work, then why should you expect to be paid for yours?

Re:Let me get this straight (3, Insightful)

irokie (697424) | about 9 years ago | (#13163918)

some would argue that the goal of record companies shouldn't be to make money, but to produce good music.
some would argue that the goal of any company should be just like it is in all their mission statements... to strive for excellence in their chosen field.

if you're good at what you do, the money should look after itself... look at google. they don't have a corporate culture that's all about money, sure, they've got people who make sure that they are making some money, but they focus more on making innovative products and actually enjoying the work that they do, and they're raking in the cash.

Re:Let me get this straight (1)

Motherfucking Shit (636021) | about 9 years ago | (#13163756)

Maybe Sony should just have those "independent promoters" run eDonkey clients instead. It'd be much cheaper.
Cheaper than what..? Paying shills to call up radio stations with fake requests [mtv.com] , and then suggesting that "the same couple of girls" should be getting drunk, or going to clubs, or getting in a hot tub before calling the radio stations?

If you didn't think the music industry was evil, think again.

Good gesture... (3, Insightful)

Strokke (772031) | about 9 years ago | (#13163644)

It's a good gesture to try to stop the corrupt radio business, but it will have very little effect. The corruption runs rampant, from low level DJ's to nationally syndicated shows, however unfortunately most is unknown.

The bottom line is that having steady radio play is the key to selling albums, and when the the vast fortune of the music industry is at stake, dishonesty is inevitable. A VERY high percentage of Americans discover new music by hearing it on the radio, and a small fine (10 million? Ensuring that their arists get radio play has got to be worth at least 10x that) will do little to discourage the big labels.

Confirmed Payola in KC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163648)

One of the managers of a local station admitted on the air to playing a crappy song because they got payola for it. The (very popular) DJ/host complained that the song sucked, the GM said "We have to play it because we get paid, and I'm happy to do it." or some words to that effect.

And, daily they have listeners call in to say, on the air, "Bob's an asshole!" Bob is the manager.

$10m fine? (4, Funny)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | about 9 years ago | (#13163656)

Makes me wonder how much they paid the Attorney General to keep the fine that low.

a whole $10M? (1)

justforaday (560408) | about 9 years ago | (#13163658)

Wow, a whole 10 million dollars, huh? I'm sure that'll teach them. Oh, and I'm sure this only applies to radio stations in NY, right? (off to RTFA now)

Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (5, Informative)

sien (35268) | about 9 years ago | (#13163662)

US TV, films etc are pretty good, but other than NPR American free to air Radio is beyond hope. Having one channel own almost all the stations is effective death.

Payola, while unpleasant, is nothing to people who are carefully creating radio to only be sports, 80s hits and right wing shock jocks.

But, fortunately, there is satelite with some variety but above all else the internet.

Australian radio, in contrast to US radio, is vibrant, brilliant and is a good industrial subsidy for the Australian music industry (ever wonder where INXS, Midnight Oil and many others got their start?).

If you want to check it out over the net check out JJJ [abc.net.au] , RRR [rrr.org.au] , 3PBS [pbsfm.org.au] and enjoy some streaming quality alternative interesting radio for a change.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (4, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#13163717)

I often wondered why Podcasting took off, and on the way home, I had to ride with a friend who happened to have a radio in his car (my Jeep explicitly doesn't, for a vast number of reasons).

Anyways, I listened to the top 40 station in the region, and let's just say, I was not impressed. He then switched the radio to his iPod and listened to the a science news cast and a indie-top-40, and, the easest way to put it; I'm never listening to the radio again.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

op00to (219949) | about 9 years ago | (#13163780)

Ra-di-o? What is this .. ra-di-o you speak of?

Seriously, I had an old 1984 Volvo, and it only picked up college radio stations if you drove by the college. Now I have a new car, and it's got a CD changer. I haven't turned the radio on once -- traffic news is useless in New Jersey anyhow. (Of course there's traffic, it's 5pm on a friday afternoon going to the beach!)

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1, Flamebait)

weharc (852974) | about 9 years ago | (#13163804)

As an Aussie who spent 9 months last year travelling all over Canada and the US (most of it by car), I have to agree with your assessment of US radio.

PBS was the only station I could stand to listen to in the US, the sheer crapness of music on any of the commercial stations we stumbled across was infuriating. We travelled across 37 US states so we got a fairly wide ranging sample ;-)

We found CBC in Canada to be pretty darn good, so I don't think it was just the "culture shock" of being in North America and missing home. I can't defend any Australian commerical radio stations either after being converted to JJJ a few years ago.

The choices in US commercial radio stations just seemed so limited to:

Country <shudder>

Christian <shudder again>

Country Christian <turn it off, turn it off!>

That's all part of the fun of travelling another country and experiencing someone else's culture I guess!

Harv.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

weharc (852974) | about 9 years ago | (#13163840)

D'oh, I meant NPR, not PBS. My bad.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

lemonlimeandbitters (748923) | about 9 years ago | (#13163865)

I spent the last nine years in the US and let me tell you, it doesn't get any better with exposure.

Personally I'm so turned off radio I cant even bring myself to listen to radio again now that I've moved back to Australia. Listening to radio is simply not something I even contemplate doing any longer.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

Ex Machina (10710) | about 9 years ago | (#13163811)

Australian radio, in contrast to US radio, is vibrant, brilliant and is a good industrial subsidy for the Australian music industry (ever wonder where INXS, Midnight Oil and many others got their start?).

Not to be too rude, but those aren't great examples. Could you pick something from this decade? Or ever the one before it?

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163867)

Killing Heidi

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

donscarletti (569232) | about 9 years ago | (#13163872)

Can you name any genuine bands that arn't 100% commercial focused that had any success in any country during this decade or the last?

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1, Insightful)

Bertie (87778) | about 9 years ago | (#13163909)

Radiohead seem to have done quite nicely.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (0, Troll)

Ex Machina (10710) | about 9 years ago | (#13163926)

Wow, talk about a loaded post.

Kylie got her start on Neighbours! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163824)

And that's all that matters!

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (1)

MSFanBoi (695480) | about 9 years ago | (#13163866)

I don't know what Radio you listen to, but it's apparent you know little about American radio. Here in the Northeast, including Boston, Hartford & New York, the radio is mostly Pop hits with a good sprinkling of hard rock. The occasional country, classical and some "easy listening". Most of the so called "shock jocks" are left wing, not right wing. As for Australian music, I can only think of two good bands to come out of Australia ever. The rest is wanna be.

Re:Meh - American Radio is beyond hope (5, Informative)

donscarletti (569232) | about 9 years ago | (#13163897)

Yes, Australian radio is absolutely brilliant. We have the always balanced and insightful John Laws and Alan Jones to bring enlightenment to us, we have the infinitely tallented Kyle and Jackie-O bringing us culture over the Austereo network who's stations in every capital city always play an ecclectic and always fresh selection of artistic music written by Australia and the World's most tallented musicians.

Granted, I've never been to North America but I find it a little tricky to swallow that anyone could have music that makes our crappy radio sound "vibrant and brilliant". Sure, JJJ has integrity (as do all the ABC stations) but that's because it's federally funded explicitly to stop kids from becoming as much of idiots as they would have been if they turned on Nova instead. Australian radio sucks, and sucks hard.

I've often wondered just why (5, Interesting)

SimianOverlord (727643) | about 9 years ago | (#13163668)

..some music is so poor, yet so successful. Take, just off the top of my head, a Madonna track that was released for the Bond movie "Die Another Day". It was A list on the radio and got played at least once every 3 hours, and it was utterly appalling. Like, so bad I couldn't understand why anyone would listen to it, never mind buy it.

I mean, music criticism is difficult because someone somewhere is going to see something in a track you might detest, but I'm pretty confident that 99% of the people who heard that track would think it was rubbish. But still it got on air, a lot.

DJ's these days are totally shackled by the system, I think they have very little freedom on large stations to play music they actually like. It used to be that an "Indie" DJ played music they liked, and if they were actually a good DJ with discerning taste and access to a lot of new stuff, it was like a filtering process to find stuff old and new you would like. But listen to any commercial station and the music is essentially interchangeable, at least here in the UK.

Anyway, talking of music that's overhyped and overpromoted, just read "most of modern R'n'B". The genre, with too few exceptions, requires little to no talent compared to too much arrogance and attitude. Recipe for success: a few hooks, some mediocre rapping and an effects/whore-heavy video. If it wasn't pushed so much, it wouldn't be popular.

WTF's payola? (1)

neosake (655724) | about 9 years ago | (#13163673)

Here's [wikipedia.org] the wikipedia link for those (like me) who didn't know what payola was.

Btw, it redirects to bribery.

Re:WTF's payola? (1)

jonadab (583620) | about 9 years ago | (#13163797)

> for those (like me) who didn't know what payola was /me boggles. That's a fairly common word.

BTW, I find it interesting that the first definition on dictionary.com specifically mentions the music industry's payment of DJs to promote records as an example. I would have thought bribing judges to influence verdicts would be a better-known example, but perhaps not.

The music industry is nuts (4, Insightful)

el_womble (779715) | about 9 years ago | (#13163674)

Individual likes music. Buys music. Distributes it to friends and family. Gets caught by the RIAA and gets slapped with a criminal record.

Record company hates music, loves advertisments. Gets given music. Gives it away for free over an unencrypted medium to anyone who cares to listen. Gets given a huge 'bribe' by record company to keep doing this and the record company is a criminal.

I know this is an over simplification, but this really is nuts.

Re:The music industry is nuts (1)

shark72 (702619) | about 9 years ago | (#13163721)

"I know this is an over simplification, but this really is nuts."

You're not the first person to be confused by this. The first step to understanding it is to remember that, unfortunately, most artists and record companies are for-profit entities and need to make sales -- it's not just about publicity. Publicity is the means to the end.

Piracy is, generally speaking, a substitute for buying music.

Radio airplay is, generally speaking, an inducement to buy music.

Re:The music industry is nuts (1, Interesting)

el_womble (779715) | about 9 years ago | (#13163890)

It just seems to me that this is all backwards. Selling CDs is just one way an artist can make money from they're music. If we imagine a world where the ability to transfer music is fast, free and easy - making the sale of CDs unnecessary (its easy if you try ;) ) are there other ways that recording companies can continue to make money?
  • Selling music to music radio, music television and dance clubs. Some people see a way to induce people to by CDs others see a market in its own right. This is the way it should be as people, even those in industry are careful not to spend their money on rubbish.
  • Live performance. Some musicians can actually sing outside of a studio. People will pay to see this. Others are pretty good at putting on a show and miming, people will pay to see this too. This is the product that musicians should be trying to sell - entertainment, not plastic discs. In the old days this is how musicians got discovered - you know before Simon Cowel invented Pap Idol
  • Selling interviews. If you are not trying to sell anything, but people are interested in what you have to say, people will pay to hear it, so you can charge the people who want to write it down and sell it. This might mean that music journalists finally get some sense out musicians, and are free to interview interesting people, as opposed the people who will do anything to promote they're album.
  • Merchandise. People will buy actually high profit products that are endorsed by the people they rate.
  • Work in other art industries where you have no right to concider yourself an artist. Britney / Crossroads - we're looking at you.

Sure I'm deluded - this will never happen. I mean - a technology that removes the need to sell music facsimilies to the masses? No-one will ever invent that! But I can dream can't I?

When something is essentially free to make, it should be free to use - with one exception: when it is used to generate a profit. Thats when copyright and licence fees should kick in and not before.

It is a matter of control (1)

Secrity (742221) | about 9 years ago | (#13163744)

I believe that the RIAA and it's members wants one thing above all else: TO RETAIN CONTROL OF THE US MUSIC BUSINESS. Enforcing copyright is just one of the tools that is used to control the music business. People distributing songs using P2P is not under the RIAA's control so the RIAA does everything that it can to stop it.

Re:The music industry is nuts (1)

Unhappy Windows User (195003) | about 9 years ago | (#13163770)

Individual likes music. Buys music. Distributes it to friends and family. Gets caught by the RIAA and gets slapped with a criminal record.

Bankrupted, maybe, but you can't get a criminal record by being sued. That's for criminal cases (which have a much higher burden on proof and wouldn't be profitable).

Re:The music industry is nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163930)

which have a much higher burden on proof and wouldn't be profitable

But it might scare the shit out of enough people to get them to stop.

If it was "download this and go to jail" instead of "download this and get sued for money you don't have" I can see people's attitudes changing a little. Not that I endorse anything like that, I'm just saying it would be pretty effective.

fuck (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163680)

I liek to jerk off with my huge hard black cock and cum all over pale nerds while masturbating anally with a banana.

Re:fuck (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163765)

spoken like a true monkey. Get back to the jungle banana boy!

Obstain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163681)

Courtesy of dictionary.com :

No entry found for obstain.

Did you mean abstain?
Suggestions:
abstain
obtain
obsidian
Bestain
abstains
abstainer
Ostein
ostein
Boston
Isatin
isatin
Obsign
Obstancy
obtainer
oil stain
ousting
Obstringe
abstained


No entry was found in the dictionary. Would you like to search the Web for obstain?

Re:Obstain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163791)

Hmmmm, first hit for that search term is rather interesting...
Black People - JESUS ATE MEAT! [destee.com]
People who claim to obstain from meat but eat fish, are like people who engage in oral sex but call themselves "virgin". Something's hypocritical and just ...

Not so wacko (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163685)

Wow.. so Michael Jackson was actually right when he accused Sony of this back in 2002?

Oh the irony (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13163689)

These are the same people who are leading the front (through their sock-puppets, the RIAA) to have music swappers incarcerated.

An insult to capitalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163699)

Why the hell shouldn't sony be allowed to pay for their music to be advertised?!

Advertising is how the radio makes all of its money; surely payola is one of the least unpleasent methods from the listener POV, you'd be stupid to want the practice to stop.

And of course, if you really don't like the mainstream/sellout stations, just stop listening to them.

What's wrong with payola? (5, Interesting)

ichin4 (878990) | about 9 years ago | (#13163714)

Why exactly should this be illegal?

If a DJ accepts a direct payment when his employment contract forbids it, that's breach of contract.

If a radio station advertises that they don't accept payola, but they do, that's fraud.

But if a radio station wants to make a strait-up pay-for-play deal with a record producer, why should the government care? If it really bothers listeners, a competitor can lure those listeners away by promising not to.

There is the really lame argument that the airwaves are a public trust, but that just means the government was dumb enough not to auction them to the highest bidder.

There is the only slightly less lame argument that music should compete on quality alone. But if the listeners don't care, and somebody has to be the popular band, why not the one that pays the most money?

Re:What's wrong with payola? (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | about 9 years ago | (#13163739)

Ultimately, there's no problem if you have a free market on the airwaves.

And anyone who thinks that radio stations are not playing some local metal band because of some payola are nuts. Radio stations play stuff that appeals to certain demographics. The money will make them play one overhyped highly polished artist from one company instead of an overhyped highly polished artist from another.

Re:What's wrong with payola? (1)

makomk (752139) | about 9 years ago | (#13163817)

Ultimately, there's no problem if you have a free market on the airwaves.

Yes, it is. There's only a limited amount of bandwidth to go around, and (capitalism being what it is, and the cost savings being not insignificant) this seems to tend to gather in the hands of a few large corporations...

Re:What's wrong with payola? (2, Informative)

bbrack (842686) | about 9 years ago | (#13163781)

The problem is that is illegal, per the federal "payola laws"

http://www.history-of-rock.com/payola.htm [history-of-rock.com]

The laws are there to give independent labels, that aren't flush with cash, a chance vs. the large labels

Re:What's wrong with payola? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163789)

Sharing copyrighted media files without permission is also illegal, yet I don't see that practice widely condemned on this site.

Mod parent up!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163839)

Well played!

Re:What's wrong with payola? (5, Insightful)

niktemadur (793971) | about 9 years ago | (#13163859)

Why exactly should this be illegal?

That's an interesting question. Here's my two cents: The concept of collusion between two separate industries to manipulate the marketplace to their benefit.
Sony Bertelsmann bumps the competition out of the way, and the radio industry gets to line its' pockets by the simple action of excluding independent record companies, filling their playlist with Sony Bertelsmann acts.

Imagine this: Microsoft buys out all nationwide software retailers so that there's only Windows apps in their shelves. No Linux, no OSX, no nothing, only Windows. Sure, you can get your Linux apps through the Internet, or by driving to a mom-and-pop store across town. But it's still an unfair competitive edge, brought about by Microsoft's humongous resources that will only get bigger in this manner, and so it spirals ever deeper.

The law, in theory, is there to protect the small guy from the bloated business monster with resources to burn in the pursuit of absolute control over everything.
Inevitably, after a corporation grows to a certain bloated size, it seeks power for power's sake, which historically has proven to be detrimental to society at large. They might think they are playing a clever game of chess on a grand scale, but they are actually waging warfare against a community that does not have the resources to fight back. Just look at Wal-Mart. And what did Akio Morita say back in the day? "Business is warfare".

Personally, I believe a basic mechanism to keep civilization running smoothly is to avoid allowing too much to accumulate in too few hands, and radio is no exception.

I can think of many other arguments of why something like payola is wrong, but these are my thoughts on why it should be and remain illegal.

Re:What's wrong with payola? (1)

niktemadur (793971) | about 9 years ago | (#13163892)

On a side note, ask yourself this: Who pays for the payola? And the fines? And Britney Spears' eighty million dollar contract?

We all do, every time we go to the record store and buy a CD at twenty bucks, when we know that manufacturing the physical product costs less than a dollar.

Re:What's wrong with payola? (1)

ytm (892332) | about 9 years ago | (#13163875)


Why exactly should this be illegal?


Because I, the listener, should be informed that the following track is being played so often not because the DJ or the public like it but because the DJ has been paid to play it. I want to know which tracks are played because of their own merit and which were 'sponsored'.

Slap on the wrist (1)

PingXao (153057) | about 9 years ago | (#13163725)

And to think they do this just to get airplay. Imagine what they're paying to the politicians themselves. They don't care. They know it's wrong and illegal and they just don't care. Money has corrupted every level of government it seems except for the NY Attorney General. Good on ya' Mr. Spitzer.

Re:Slap on the wrist (1)

iamwahoo2 (594922) | about 9 years ago | (#13163868)

Spitzer is the only AG that does Jack in this country. His record speaks for itself. Most AGs are just using it as a stepping stone to run for governor. Like ours here in Ohio, Jim Petro.

Canada's answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163730)

Payola has existed for a long time. Control by large American companies has existed for a long time. Not suprisingly, in the 1960s hardly any Canadians could be heard on Canadian radio stations. To solve this problem, the Canadian government imposed the Canadian Content rules. A certain proportion of airtime had to be devoted to music with Canadian content. (There was a formula based on the writer, the artist, the recording company, etc.) The result is a reasonably strong Canadian music industry.

The other thing we have is the university radio stations. They must, by law, play things that aren't being played on the mainstream stations.

There may well be a legislative solution to the problem. The other thing might be to start looking at the RIAA as the convicted criminals that they are and quit rewarding them with draconian copyright laws that criminilize our kids.

Why does it matter? (1, Flamebait)

putko (753330) | about 9 years ago | (#13163733)

I was trying to figure out why payola bothers Americans.

I don't think it is simply that radio stations are using a public resource -- if all radio was private (ala Sirius or XM), I think folks _would_ mind a bit if stuff was getting paid because the company was getting stuff in return. But I think they'd mind less, because they'd figure that Sirius can do with its spectrum what it wishes, because they've paid for it.

I think what bothers folks is the fact that it is done in an underhanded, secretive fashion. This last case took it to whole new levels of Talmudism (just RTFA to see).

Imagine if they said, "this next Madonna song was sponsored by EMI. Madonna is so great! Buy the album." I just don't think people would mind so much.

Re:Why does it matter? (2, Insightful)

jonadab (583620) | about 9 years ago | (#13163818)

> I was trying to figure out why payola bothers Americans.

It bothers people who would like to listen to the radio, because they're frustrated with the level of (ostensible) quality of the music played on most of the available stations. Those of us who gave up on radio decades ago don't care so much.

Independent Promoters (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 9 years ago | (#13163734)

While the labels share some of the blame, the radio stations allow and encourage the corrupt practices of the so-called independent promoters. If the radio station plays a record from your label, the independent promoter sends you an invoice. If you don't pay, forget about future airplay of your label's artists. The independent promoter is the middleman in extorting cash and other products/services from the record label. Basically, it old-style payola with the addition of a middleman to launder the money, and the money goes to the radio station's owner, not some dishonest DJ. It's been institutionalized to the point that large radio networks sell exclusive franchises to independent promoters for large fees. The end result is that you don't get airplay without greasing the appropriate palms.

ABSTAIN not obstain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163743)

You know, there is a form spellchecker for Firefox.

in soviet Russia (1)

In_Sovjet_Russia (902104) | about 9 years ago | (#13163902)

Spellchecker forms you!

Go Spitzer (1)

Illserve (56215) | about 9 years ago | (#13163773)

Run those corporate leeches out on a rail.

God I love that guy. He's as close to a knight in shining armor that we'll find in his position.

Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13163785)

Yesterday's news, today. Just like reading a newspaper.

Re:Slashdot (1)

qbert980 (891053) | about 9 years ago | (#13163873)

What is this news-paper you speak of? Have they found a way to print moveable type on a surface?

I'll take my chances with Slashdot news. It doesn't anger me quite as much as mainstream media.

RIAA-RICO (3, Insightful)

gurutc (613652) | about 9 years ago | (#13163794)

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act... If the recording industry and the radio industry knowingly collude to perpetuate payola, how is it not covered by this act which has some real teeth?

What? Record companies hypocritical? (4, Funny)

a_nonamiss (743253) | about 9 years ago | (#13163795)

I don't understand this. I thought that the record companies were supposed to be the shining beacons of morality! What with all their protecting the rights of the innocent and defenseless artists, they'd HAVE to be completely upright businessmen.

I guess the moral is that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Meanwhile, I'm going to start downloading music again. :)

Hmm. NY. (2, Interesting)

E-Sabbath (42104) | about 9 years ago | (#13163858)

I wonder if this is why the NY hard rock station, 92.3 WXRK, changed formats and has ditched nearly all music produced since '95 from the playlist.

Currently, NY is completely without a modern rock station, leaving only pop Z-100 to play anything new.

Possible solution: (1)

sugapablo (600023) | about 9 years ago | (#13163864)

Perhaps if (since these are supposed to be the public airwaves) one radio station per coverage area could be set aside by the FCC as a cooperative; a TRULY public station. Sort of like the organic grocery cooperative I belong to is run.

-) There'd be a membership fee for each household. Something nominal. The membership fee at my co-op is $100 lifetime.

-) Each member gets to vote for a board of directors who run the station (hires djs, purchases Cds and equipment, etc.)

This would ensure community ownership and operation of what is again, supposed to be the public airwaves. This would ensure what the community wants to hear would be played. This would ensure local interests would be met.

Re:Possible solution: (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 9 years ago | (#13163920)

An alternative would be to not have the monopolies on the rest of the airwaves.

Why should companies be able to dominate what is essentially a fixed resource.

Would it be fair if Pepsi bought lake michigan and emptied it for it's own use?

Would it be fair if Shell set up solar cells that blocked out all of the sunlight for an entire city?

etc, etc, etc...

There are only so many FM "channels" in the given band. When you have companies like Chum, Clearchannel, etc... buying them all up you're left with the mess we have now.

Radio is no longer about entertainment or education but simply endorsements and making more cash....

In reality radio is not really the best medium to make money off since the users don't pay for it. Hence the advertisements. Now we do pay for it... but indirectly through hiked up prices on same-quality crap.

Why not pull a WBAI for all radio stations? They're still on the air even after years of fundraising on and off.

So why not make radio stations non-profit and donation driven. That would mean the actual *SHOCK* listeners could decide with their money where to "invest" in the public airwaves.

That, sirs, would be a free market solution.

Of course it'll never happen because "real world capitalism" is not about free market but essentially dictatorships.

Tom

Wow! (4, Informative)

jav1231 (539129) | about 9 years ago | (#13163885)

Some of the memo's are pretty revealing. FSN has a story on some of it. "We ordered a laptop for Donnie Michaels at WFLY in Albany. He has since moved to WHYI in Miami. We need to change the shipping address." One Sony memo from 2002: "Can you work with Donnie to see what kind of digital camera he wants us to order?" Looks like Rush was right: "glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah!"

Can anyone explain why payola is wrong? (1)

aziraphale (96251) | about 9 years ago | (#13163910)

I mean, the record companies want to sell albums, the record companies pay radio station to air adverts for the albums... but if they pay them to broadcast free samples from the album, that's suddenly wrong?

I never figured out why radio stations had to pay record companies for the right to broadcast advertising material for them. The recording industry's greatest ever scam was reversing the advertising model to such an extent that if they are caught actually paying for their ads to be broadcast, it's seen as wrong...
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